Accessoires are important for a historical outfit, they complete the look. Think jewelry, purses, hair accessories, gloves, stockings, and of course shoes! Shoes are arguably the most important, after all, you can’t go out without them. But proper historical footwear is difficult to find. My solution so far has been to look for shoes which look plausible, and wear those. As my regular style is already historically inspired, that tends to work okay. But, of course, nearly all modern shoes don’t pass closer inspection. What’s more, it’s often difficult to find historically inspired shoes which have a medium to low heel. I’ve no problem with wearing heels, but I don’t like them too high. And as I wear my outfits mostly to events where I have to walk all day, a low heeled, comfortable shoe is preferabele.
For this reason, I’ve been eyeing the shoes made by American Duchess for a long time. This is a small American company specializing in historical footwear, and they make absolutely gorgeous things. The only problem: I’m on a different continent than they are, and ordering shoes online is scary enough if you can return them without extra costs. With shipping overseas, the costs would be on me if the shoes didn’t fit. This is, of course, completely understandable as a small company can’t afford to pay for return shipping constantly. But it does make ordering a bit more of a risk. And then there’s the question of import taxes, which are always very difficult to guess at but can add quite a bit to the price. All in all, with shipping costs, tax costs, and the chance that the shoes won’t fit right, I’ve never dared to order.
So when I was in California last month for work, and actually staying in one place for a couple of weeks, I figured it was now or never and placed an order. I’d left a little room in my suitcase, and finally took the chance to buy proper Victorian boots! Although I love all American Duchess styles, I opted to get the ‘Renoir’ Victorian button boots. Because they fit with early Victorian, and can pass with late Victorian/Edwardian. And because button-up boots are impossible to find as a ‘modern’ reproduction, because we’ve become too used to zippers and laces. And because they’re just very pretty!
Aren’t they lovely! And the heel is actually quite low, so they should also be comfortable to walk in for a longer time.
Additionally, I also got the shoe painting kit. The Renoir boots come in Ivory, but American Duchess also sells kits to dye your shoes and has tutorials online. Although the ivory is lovely, my only current Victorian dress is black, and I suspect black will go with any future projects just as well as ivory. So I’ll probably be painting them. Because I might want to paint other shoes in the future, and I wasn’t 100% sure on the color yet, I got a kit with different colors.
I got the international shoe painting kit, because I had to take it on the airplane with me. There’s also a US version, which includes primer to remove the paint on the leather before dyeing. I e-mailed to ask which version to get, as I didn’t know why the primer couldn’t be shipped abroad. I got a very quick and helpful reply explaining that the primer couldn’t be shipped because it is explosive. This allowed me to check with my airline, and I found that I wouldn’t be allowed to take any combustive substances on board with me. So the version without primer it was! I now just need to get some turpentine, as that will do the same job.
Finally, I added a pair of silk stockings, because I was ordering anyway and I’ve been wearing modern panty’s under my dresses. Not very accurate (and the stockings are so pretty too!)
Shipping was very quick, and free for me as I was ordering from the US. The shoes came in a gorgeous blue shoe-box, wrapped in plastic and filled with paper.
Unfortunately, I had to throw the box out, because it wasn’t going to fit in my suitcase. I was really happy with the plastic bags around the shoes, because these protected my shoes after they were stuffed in my case! There was also a lovely little etui with the button hook. (And extra heels, which are on the box in the next picture)
The only problem with the package was that the stockings weren’t in them. I got an e-mail from American Duchess on the day the package arrived (it was tracked), including the statement that I could e-mail them if anything was wrong. I asked after the stockings, and immediately received a reply with apologies and an offer to send them out as soon as possible. This was on Monday evening (I opened the package after work), and the stockings arrived on Thursday. All in all, the service was great, with very quick and helpful replies and quick shipping.
The shoes are now back home with me, waiting for their adjustments. They’re a little tight, so I’ll probably be wearing them a bit around the house first. I ordered a size 6, which is charted as a European size 36/37. As I usually wear 36, very occasionally 37, I guessed that this would be good. For my feet, these work, but if your feet are a little bigger (say, usually size 37 sometimes 36), you might want to go with a size 6.5. American Duchess also allows the option of measuring your own feet and comparing it to a chart, but I didn’t bring my measuring tape to the US, so couldn’t use that. For me, at least now I know that their size 6 is good but tight. If I order from them again, I’ll probably measure and see if 6.5 might be better.
The buttons on the shoes are not exactly in the right place for my feet, which is actually normal. Because they’re meant to fit tightly, moving the buttons is recommended. (Also, there’s a video tutorial online to help!). First up will be painting though, and then I’ll be looking to see if I can find black buttons the right size to put on. I’ll keep you posted!